The great perspectives from creative and innovative thinkers I’ve met on Twitter continues this week with this post on breaking creative blocks from Robert Alan Black, Ph.D. Known as “wanderingalan” on Twitter, he’s the founder and president of Cre8ng People, Places and Possibilities and author of “Broken Crayons, Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines.” He can be reached online at [email protected]

It’s a real honor to have
Alan share his perspective on a random thinking technique that’s a twist on the “Change Your Character” approach that’s been shared here previously:

Oh no! I’m blocked again. No ideas. I just sit and sit and no ideas come. 

Where is my muse when I need her?

I have to have ideas and a basic proposal in 90 minutes, and I feel stale, blank, dry, like a void in space. No ideas are coming, especially creative ones.

This blocked, frustrated feeling often happens when we are under pressure. One process I find helpful is to Alphabetize Sources.

Simply take a sheet of paper and write down the left side of the page the letters a, b, c, through z. Then think of the name of a famous/infamous person whose name fits, i.e., Abe Lincoln for A, Benjamin Franklin for B, Charles Manson for C. You can use first names or last names or a mix. It is up to you.

Then proceed to randomly pick a series of letters from a to z and write them on separate cards or pieces of paper. Now look up the names that match on your list.

You may have chosen D, X, M, T, U, O, H and the names from your list were:

D – Walt Disney
X – Xavier Cougat
M – Mickey Mantle
T – Teddy Roosevelt
U – U. S. Grant
O – Oscar Wilde
H – Henry Fonda

The next step is to imagine how each of these people might approach your challenge. Walt Disney might focus on amusement or entertainment while Xavier Cougat would orchestrate the problem using a large group of players and Mickey Mantle might swing for the home run, and so forth.

Often the ideas will appear farfetched at first. That is when you need to use your always available logically creative thinking skills. Take the “wild idea” and ask yourself: How might I alter this to make it more workable (using any appropriate criteria or limitation)?

This process helps “break mindset,” “shift paradigms,” and forces me to explore approaches I might never consider otherwise, especially under pressure of a time restraint.

This method can be used in many different ways. Instead of famous people’s names you could use:

  • Cartoon characters
  • Characters from literature
  • Super Heroes (Steve Grossman developed this version)
  • Occupations
  • Animals
  • Objects
  • Randomly chosen nouns from a dictionary

The possibilities are endless. The key is to force your thoughts into new patterns, to “Break Your Crayons,” change your mindset quickly, and effectively find creative directions even when your muse is off on vacation in Barbados. By breaking your crayons you will cause your brain to make leaps when you need it to and not have to wait until it is in a creative mood.

This is just one method to help ourselves be more creative on the spot, on demand, and off-the-wall. What ideas do you use to stimulate your muse? Share your ideas in the comments section for other innovators to learn. – Robert Alan Black, Ph.D., CSP

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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